Closed Facebook groups and COVID-19: an evaluation of utilization prior to and during the pandemic

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Surgical endoscopy


BACKGROUND: Surgical education was limited during the COVID-19 pandemic due to redeployment, limited clinical activity, and cancelation of elective procedures and educational conferences. Closed Facebook groups became a tool for surgical education while upholding social distancing guidelines. We aim to evaluate the use of Online Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) closed Facebook groups, during and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: Institutional Review Board evaluation and written consent was not indicated as the data does not pertain to any human subjects. Data files pertaining to new membership activity, posts, comments and reactions of eight closed Facebook groups. The pandemic group was defined as March 19th to April 30, 2020. The pre-pandemic group was defined as February 6th, to March 18th, 2020. The percentage increase of new memberships, posts, comments and reactions were calculated for each period. A two-tailed t-test, using a significance level of 0.05 was used to evaluate significance.

RESULTS: A statistically significant increase in membership during the pandemic period was noted for each group. In regards to posts, the Flex Endo, Acute Care, Colorectal, Foregut, and Bariatric groups were noted to have a statistically significant increase in the pandemic period. Colorectal and Bariatric groups were the only two groups that were noted to have a significant increase in comments in the pandemic period. For reactions, Flex Endo, Colorectal, Foregut, and Bariatric groups were noted to have experienced a significant increase during the pandemic.

CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 pandemic halted surgical education at all levels. The membership and utilization of closed Facebook groups increased significantly in many instances, demonstrating the importance of internet-based surgical education now and into the future. Further development of internet-based curriculums is warranted.

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ePub ahead of print